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Audio books are a sound biz now

Shanghai-based Ximalaya Inc, owner of a Chinese audio-sharing app that has become popular in recent years, not only provides a large number of books in audio format but allows its millions of users to create and share audio content. Ximalaya has audio copyrights to 70 percent of current bestsellers. Its users appreciate the books by listening. The number of such active users has surpassed 300 million. “There is huge potential in the audio publishing market in China,” said Yu Jianjun, CEO and founder of Ximalaya. He estimates the market size will reach 300 billion yuan in sales in the future. This will likely benefit the whole industry chain, including authors, publishers, voice specialists and app developers, he said. According to Beijing-based internet consultancy Analysys, China’s audio book market has witnessed rapid growth in recent years. The market size reached 2.2 billion yuan ($0.3 billion) in 2016. It expects the figure to reach 4.2 billion yuan in 2018. Typically, a 200-page book can be rendered in audio whose duration lasts one to two hours. Encouraged by early success, Ximalaya began to tap the paid content business last June. In the beginning, much of its audio content was user-generated. Then, celebrities such as former CGTN television host Ma Dong, renowned business columnist and investor Wu Xiaobo and Chinese singer Gong Linna jumped on the audio content bandwagon. Yu said the market is so big that many audio content providers are striving to tap into it. But only a few appear to be quality-conscious, he said. “The copyrights issue will affect the healthy development of the audio book market. That’s why, we’ve deepened strategic cooperation with multiple copyright owners, to safeguard the authors’ copyrights and guarantee authentic content to our users,” Yu said. Ximalaya has forged cooperation agreements with China Reading Limited, the country’s largest online reading platform, for copyrighted content. Last August, it also inked strategic agreements with publishing giants such as CITIC Press, China South Publishing & Media Group for audio versions of their popular books. “We aim to build up a Tmall-like platform, letting content providers to create high-quality content,” said Yu, adding the audio book segment will be driven by paid-for content. “High-quality content will be the key.”

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